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Okruashvili: ‘Saakashvili’s Days Numbered’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 14 Sep.'08 / 18:31

Irakli Okruashvili, ex-defense minister, said President Saakashvili must be held accountable and resign.

Okruashvili, who is wanted in Georgia but was granted political asylum in France, said in an interview with Reuters that he planned to return to Georgia “within a year.”

“[Saakashvili] must be held accountable and resign. If he steps down, he shouldn't be prosecuted. But if he doesn't, it will lead to criminal charges against him,” Okruashvili said. “I will return within a year, even if it means risking jail. But in the meantime I will try to create the right conditions. Saakashvili's days are numbered.”

He also said that November 7 – the one year anniversary of the break-up of anti-government protest rallies by riot police – would be “a test” for the opposition.

“We'll see how much the opposition is able to mobilize,” Okruashvili said.

Okruashvili, who served as defense minister from December 2004 to November 2006, also said that the EU-brokered ceasefire plan signed by Saakashvili on August 15 was “disgraceful” for Georgia.

He claimed in the interview with Reuters that he and President Saakashvili worked together on military plans to regain control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, when he served as the defense minister.

“Abkhazia was our strategic priority, but we drew up military plans in 2005 for taking both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well,” he said.

The original plan, he claimed, envisaged taking over Tskhinvali, Java – a South Ossetian stronghold north of Tskhinvali - and the Roki Tunnel, linking the breakaway region with Russia.

“Saakashvili's [August] offensive only aimed at taking Tskhinvali, because he thought the U.S. would block a Russian reaction through diplomatic channels,” he continued. “But when the U.S. reaction turned out to be non-existent, Saakashvili then moved troops toward the Roki tunnel, only to be outmaneuvered by the Russians.”

Okruashvili also said that since 2006 Georgia hasn't had a chance of succeeding militarily. “The Russians repositioned and improved their military infrastructure in the North Caucuses, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.”

He also criticized the United States for unwavering support towards President Saakashvili’s administration. “

“Lack of criticism from the U.S. allowed him to go too far,” Okruashvili said.

He, however, also said that the U.S. had always been warning Tbilisi not to get involved in a military confrontation. “When we met President Bush in May 2005, we were told directly: don't involve yourself in a military confrontation. We won't be able to help you militarily,” Okruashvili said.

In summer, 2004, when Okruashvili served as the interior minister, he led a highly controversial offensive against South Ossetian militias on the strategic heights overlooking Tskhinvali. At least 17 Georgian servicemen were killed, according to official information.

In October 2006 the Russian newspaper Versiya reported that in an interview with one of its journalist, Okruashvili, who at that time was defense minister, said Georgia was ready for war against Russia and if the latter launched hostilities against Georgia it would be “a disaster” for the Russian army. The Defense Ministry, however, denied at that time that Okruashvili had said anything of the sort.

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